George Clark’s review published on Letterboxd:
Stanley Kubrick has long been celebrated as one of the best directors to have ever graced our screens. His films have long inspired people to fall in love with cinema, showing audiences how good a film can be, with the two I've currently seen "Paths of Glory" and "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb", being utterly brilliant, with the first being arguably one of the best films I've ever seen and the latter being intriguing, to say the least. But it's 2001: A Space Odyssey that's been recommended to me the most. I feel like I've been recommended this film since the moment I learned how to breathe. Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey has been praised by science-fiction enthusiasts of every age and in every corner of the world for years now, recommended to people thousands of times because of "how good it is". Now there's no denying, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a good film, even borderline great at times, but it's also one that never completely wowed me like it has others.
There's no denying that the film has a look to it, a look unlike anything I've ever seen. A visual splendor that drew me in from the very, somewhat weird, start to the even more confusing, out of place end. The cinematography, set pieces, and visual achievement is magnificent showing off the scope and scale of the production brilliantly, creating a sense of awe throughout its entirety. Its special effects are used so seamlessly as part of an overall artistic strategy that, even fifty-three years later, they still look incredible. It's a film that certainly looks the part, exhibiting life onboard in a fascinating way. Yet it's Alex North's score that arguably pushes the film to new heights. It is easily one of, if not the best score I've ever heard. It's truly something special, inducing a range of emotions in me and simply amazing me in the overall power it held.
However, 2001: A Space Odyssey was both a hit and a miss for me. Like an abstract painting, with elements of marvel as well as madness, the film demonstrates that filmmaking doesn't have to be dedicated to telling a linear story. It can flow at its own pace, creating something that many call revolutionary to this day. Yet it's this non-linear approach that often left me confused, scratching my head wondering what the hell was happening. Fair enough, I may have just not got it, it may have just been all too much for me to comprehend on a first viewing, but for me, the storyline never truly worked and thus lead to the ending, that’s still good, feeling out of place within.
There are three plots in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and they never mix. This created a film that felt like Kubrick was unwilling to give structure to his emotions, never allowing the audience to feel anything for the characters within, bar the "I'm afraid" line HAL 9000 repeats (that was honestly heartwrenching). I'll admit that I rather enjoyed the vast proportion of the film, the scenes onboard the ship heading for Jupiter were fascinating, and the second act really did amaze me. Yet the first and third never grabbed me, the first was interesting, showcasing the ‘evolution of man’, but the third, which continues to showcase that point, was far too confusing for its own good, leaving me somewhat muddled once the film had concluded with far more disappointed questions than anything else.
As much as any movie ever made, this visionary science-fiction tale of space travel and first contact with extraterrestrial life is a spellbinding experience for better and for worse. There's a quote that Kubrick once used, "The very nature of the visual experience in 2001 is to give the viewer an instantaneous, visceral reaction that does not, and should not, require further amplification.", there's no doubt that the visual side of this film is flawless, perfectly demonstrates the fact that 2001 is a visual masterpiece, but the film sadly needed a far less confusing narrative as that's sadly what stopped it from fully achieving true greatness in my eyes. Let's hope it's just because this was my first viewing, let's hope I love it on a second and let’s hope this headache that both the film and writing this has caused will go away!